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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr FROST (Franklin) (Minister for Repatriation) . - by leave - I ' move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill, is for the purpose of applying to service pensions under the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act the modifications of the means test which is under consideration in respect of pensions under the Invalid and' Old-age Pensions Act. Service pensions are equivalent to invalid and old-age pensions for ex-members of the forces, as distinct from general war pensions. In certain respects the provisions are more liberal than those of the scheme for the general communityFor example, if granted on the grounds of age, the member is admitted at the age of 60 years, or in the case of a woman member, at the age of 55 years - in each case five years earlier than is the case with ordinary old-age pensions. . If the member is eligible on the grounds of invalidity, his wife and children, up to four in number, may be granted service pensions also. There are other advantages in favour of service pensioners, but the general character of the provisions is similar to that pf ordinary invalid or old-age pensions. Consequently, if certain material principles of the latter are altered, the alteration must be reflected in the service pensions scheme. The Minister for Labour and National Service in his speech on the second reading of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1946, explained that the three main features were, first, the raising from 12s. 6d. a week to£l a week of the amount of income which an invalid or old-age pensioner may have without lus pension being affected; secondly, the raising of the property bar from £400 to £650; and, third, the elimination of certain items of property from considera- tion in the assessment of the rate of pension. The income and property provisions are common to both schemes, and therefore the three provisions to which [- have referred must apply in respect of service pensions. The first provision, namely, the raising of permissible other income from 12s. 6d to £1 a week, requires no amendment of the Repatriation Act, as section 87 of the act is so con structed that it takes care of this- point' whatever alteration may be made from, time to time. The other two provisions which relate to property necessitate amendment of the Repatriation Act.. It is proposed to amend section 89 to raise the amount of £400 specified therein to £650, and to provide that deductions in respect of each' £10 of property shall be on the same lines as the amendment to section 24 "of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, that is, a certain rate of deduction for property over £50 but not over £400, and a higher rate of deduction for the portion of property in excess of £400. The only difference is that, as service pension provisions are expressed in' fortnightly amounts, as against annual amounts in the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, the deductions are expressed as so much a fortnight. The effect, however, is almost exactly the same with both schemes. The elimination of certain items of property involves an amendment of section 90, and the amendment provided in the bill is identical with the corresponding provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1946. At the 30th June, 1946, the numbers of service pensions in force wore: members, 9,052; wives and children of incapacitated members, 2,645; widows and children of deceased members, 1,335 ; total, 13,032. The annual liability was £846,833. It is estimated that the modifications to the means test will increase the annual liability in respect of service pensions by approximately £55,000. The proposed amendments to the act are a logical corollary to the widening of the invalid and oldage pensions legislation, and I am confident that the bill will have general support . from honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. HARRISON adjourned.

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